Skip to content


Topic #12
Your Dogma Just Peed On My Karma!



Last Saturday night was spent at the Toronado with our boxing instructor (Jocelyn&#41, her brother (Paul&#41, and Jocelyn's college friend Shadee. While we were consuming beers and listening to everyone's bad roommate stories, the conversation drifted towards religion.

Normally, I don't talk about religion with people I don't know really well, because there are still a hell of a lot of anti-semites out there… and it's usually not worth the argument. But blame it on the beer, or on the fact that the conversation was going very well, but I ended up letting everyone know that I am Jewish.

Well, talk about getting a resounding "big freaking whoop" from the crowd. Jocelyn and Paul are Jewish. Janet knows I'm Jewish (we have been married for 8 years&#41… and Shadee didn't give a shit. It was nice… for one of the first times in a long time, I let a group of people know that I was Jewish and it wasn't a problem.

When I was growing up, I knew that I was a little different. When other kids went to church on Sundays, I stayed home and watched TV. Some of my friends couldn't come over to play on Thursdays because they went to CCD, and some of my friends couldn't come over on Sunday because of Sunday School. I never really mattered to me when I was really young.

Then, invariably, I would be over at a friend's house for a sleepover and when dinner was served, one of the parents would ask if I wanted to say grace. So, I would tell them that we didn't say grace at my house. Some of the parents would just let it go… but occasionally, I would have to deal with a parent who would just keep asking me more and more questions about my religion, to which I would finally answer "I'm Jewish". Sometimes, that would be the last sleepover that I would be invited to.

It was strange, as I grew up, I didn't really know what it meant to be Jewish. For me, it meant that every year I would have to go to a long dinner at my grandparents' house for Passover, and that on Chanukah, I would get to light the candles and would get eight days of presents. I knew that I had a Jewish name, but I didn't know what it was. My family ate pork and cheeseburgers, and celebrated Christmas. The few times that we went to visit friends of the family who were more religious, they were shocked to hear that I didn't know any of the prayers. I was Jewish, but only by birth.

Growing up as a secular Jew wasn't really that difficult. Except for one and a half years spent in Granby, a little backwater town in Northern Connecticut, all of my time was spent in towns with relatively large Jewish populations. Nobody really cared that I was Jewish, so I never really cared that I was Jewish.

When Janet and I went to college in Western Pennsylvania, it was the first time that I was really in a town without Jews. It never really bothered me that I was probably the only Jew on campus because, as I have said a number of times… I wasn't religious.

The longer that I spent away from other Jews, the more that I started giving a damn about being Jewish. We stopped celebrating Christmas and Easter, and I started learning more about what it meant to be Jewish.

Eventually, we decided to move back to the North East, specifically, Boston. While living in Boston, we lived near Brookline Center and went to school in Newton, both large Jewish neighborhoods. Since I was in a Jewish area, I stopped caring about my Judaism because I didn't feel like an outsider.

When we moved to San Francisco, where there is no real visible Jewish presence, I started getting more and passionate about my heritage. I started wearing a silver Star of David, and I started looking around at the different synagogues in the area. I started to embrace the Jewish culture… if not the religion.

When my grandfather passed away, I saw the structure that the Jewish Religion provided to my family. When I came back to San Francisco, I started to look into the religious aspect of Judaism. That was about 2 and a half years ago.

I still don't belong to a synagogue, and don't attend services… I eat pork and shellfish… and I have tattoos, which is a real no-no in the Jewish religion. But I have found a synagogue that I find interesting… and I might attend High Holy Day services this month… and for the first time, I am not afraid to tell the world who I am: My name is Chayim Mendel, and I am a Jew.

Recently at a summer picnic, I couldn't help but overhear the proud parents of a new baby talking about having their baby baptized, and how they had to attend classes in the church in order to do so. My first thought was how unfair I thought that it was for the baby to be forced to take part in a religion that, when he grew to be an adult, may not even have the slightest respect for or belief in.

I was raised a Catholic. I was baptized, went to catechism once a week, attended church services and made my first communion. I stopped going to church shortly before all of the other people my age were making their Confirmations. I definitely didn't want to "confirm" that I was a good and dedicated Catholic/Christian, because, well, because I wasn't. I didn't know exactly what I thought about religion at that point, but I did know that Christianity wasn't it.

In the past year or two, I've become more and more scientific in thought, rather than spiritual. I don't pray to a god. As a matter of fact, I don't even believe in a god…the main, most popular one or any other. Why? Well, when I used to pray when I was younger, nothing ever came of it. I never felt that "god was listening." I never felt at peace or confident that there was any kind of supreme being whatsoever listening to me, as people often attest to. I never understood the fact that everything could be forgiven, no matter how bad, by confessing that you were a bad person and saying a few prayers. I also grew tired of the scare tactics that the Catholic church would use, on everyone really, but mostly for the benefit of impressionable young minds, like " oooo, god is watching" or "oooo, you're going to hell unless you do x, y and z."

So as Avery was becoming more spiritual, in a sense, I was becoming more non-spiritual. In a nutshell, major point Number One is that I don't believe in god because, well, why should I? I've never heard god speak to me, nor have I ever seen god appear before me. If I don't hear something, or see it, why should I believe that it exists? Some people will say that I should believe that god exists based on the fact that the Bible exists. The Bible. Does anyone know who actually wrote the Bible? No, of course not. There is no black-and-white picture of the author(s&#41 on the inside of the book jacket. For all anyone knows, this could be the ultimate fictional bestseller of all time.

Other people will ask, "Well, then, how did the world get here, hmmm?" And you can't respond with the Big Bang Theory, as there of course had to be something else that caused the Big Bang in the first place. And maybe these people do have a point here, but I have so many other things to worry about in my life besides whether god or a spark in the universe a gazillion years ago created the earth.

Which brings me to major point number two: Maybe there is a god, and I'm just sitting here being all scientific and missing the religion boat altogether, and possibly maybe even going to "hell" when I die. It could be that I'm wrong, but that doesn't bother me. What I don't want to do is pray to, ask assistance from, or worship and love something which I don't believe exists. Not only that, I don't want to spend my life worrying about whether god does or does not exist. There are so many religions and so many concepts of the same main idea of  god, it just doesn't make sense to me how god could be a singular, real being.

A year or so ago, a basically non-religious friend of mine abruptly joined a new church. When I asked her why, she said that she was dealing with a lot of personal issues, and between that and work and everything else, she had decided to let "someone else" handle the big stuff…the "someone else," being god, of course. I personally don't believe in the god-as-a-personal-assistant idea, but that's just me. Wouldn't a little vacation, or at least the purchase of a Palm Pilot, be a better choice in this situation?

If that choice has worked for her, however, who am I to judge? I understand that the idea of a helping hand or a sympathetic ear can do wonders for that lonely someone who is going through some personally difficult times. Until god shows it/himself to me, though, and I'm talking about him floating down on his puffy cloud, robes flowing all over the place, I'm not going to wonder about it. For now it's just between me myself and I how my life ends up. Whatever happens, happens, but I'm not going to put my trust in something that I don't believe exists.   


By the way… if you have any topics that you would like us to take on in next week's Topic of the Week, Go to the Message Boards and use the Topic of the Week Conference.

Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.